Colin Mair MA

Headmaster of Kelvinside Academy and master at Edinburgh Academy

Born: 21 December, 1919, in Edinburgh.

Died: 11 December, 2006, in Wishaw, aged 86.

COLIN Mair was a member of an academic family which has played a significant role in education in Scotland. He was an accomplished linguist, classicist and an athlete of considerable standing. As a teacher, Mair was an enthusiast who was keen to impart knowledge with a real and infectious commitment. He inspired loyalty and trust in both staff and pupils.

Mair was a renowned disciplinarian but retained a delightful sense of humour. Sheriff George Presslie was taught English at the Edinburgh Academy (EA) by Mair, "He was, certainly, stern: but he was immensely fair. If you performed then he encouraged you no end.


Colin James Robertson Mair was the son of the professor of Greek at Edinburgh University and he would have followed his brothers to Merchiston Castle, but the tragic death of his father in a fire necessitated his first attending Dreghorn Castle Preparatory School and then the EA. Mair was an accomplished pupil who shone academically and for two years was a member of the cricket Xl.

In 1937, Mair started to read classics at Edinburgh University but his studies were interrupted by the war. He enlisted in 1939, but spent a year teaching at Hartree House, in Biggar, to where part of the EA had been evacuated. However, in 1940, he was commissioned into the East Lancashire Regiment with whom he served as an instructor until 1945.

Mair graduated with honours the following year at Edinburgh University, and after a teacher's training course at Moray House, he joined the staff of the EA where he taught Latin, Greek, French and English. He was commander of the Combined Cadet Force and coached both rugby and cricket.

Mair remained an active sportsman and often appeared for the Edinburgh Academicals at Raeburn Place. He captained the Academical XV in 1952-3 and the cricket Xl in both 1951 and 1954, appearing often in various district sides. He was housemaster of Dundas House from 1955 to 1958 where his attention to all the boys' welfare never wavered.

Mair's time as a housemaster was cut short as, in 1958, he became rector of Kelvinside Academy (KA). It was a post he filled with much distinction for 22 years, meeting with considerable success in expanding the school's reputation both scholastically and athletically. On a practical basis, Mair established the school's wider academic status when he became the first KA rector to be elected to the Headmasters' Conference.

In his time as rector, pupil numbers increased from 400 to over 700. Most heartening for Mair was the marked rise in entrances to the senior universities. In 1958, no boys at KA sat GCE "A" levels. By 1979, Mair had improved the academic standard such that KA had 470 "O" level passes and 313 Higher passes at School Certificate. Aside from these successes, he encouraged pupils to expand their non academic interests - especially at sports, in art and in school drama performances.

In an emotional speech on his retirement from KA in 1980, "CJR", as he was known throughout his years there, spoke in glowing terms about his time as rector. Modestly, he attributed the school's success to the governors, the staff and the boys. His final words reflected his devotion to the school and especially the pupils, "May I say thank you for all you have done for the school and for me. Thank you for the memories you have given me - memories of great young men."

He retired to Carluke where he played an energetic game of golf and was a regular attendee at the meetings of the Ancient Accies. Mair was also a lay member of the discipline committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and a diligent elder of the Kirk in both Edinburgh and Carluke.

Mair devoted much of his time to the chairmanship of the Buttle Trust, a charity that helps deprived children of single parents. John Mackenzie, who was a pupil at KA when Mair was rector, succeeded him as chairman of the trust. "Colin was an imaginative and innovative chairman," he said. "He worked hard and attended numerous committee meetings in London. As a teacher, he was thorough and a constant inspiration. He encouraged you to expand your interests and broaden your academic horizons. He really made the school what it is. He was a terrific rector."

Mair was twice married. His first marriage to Catherine Finlay was dissolved and he is survived by his second wife, Susanna Clark, and a son and daughter by his first marriage. The son, also Colin, is currently rector of Glasgow High School and his daughter, Anne, was headmistress of Kelvinside Academy Junior School.